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WC Beat Ed. V

What’s this? Five year olds with laptops? 

A person can be taken aback when a group of kindergarteners waltz by with laptop cases and a latte. Okay, maybe not a latte, but perhaps a hot cocoa with whip? Whatever these sightings bring to mind – get used to it. This is the future. Students at West Covina Unified, from kindergarten to third grade, are taking this reading game by storm and already making big strides with reading proficiency. 

West Covina Unified has invested a great amount of time and money in the new K-3 Reading Initiative that is based on the principle that all students will be reading at grade level by third grade.  Students will receive systematic instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, and sight words in a small group setting.  This intensive instruction is prescribed to students based on data collected through various forms of assessment. The district has purchased two reading programs, SIPPS and Lexia which are used during small group instruction for 40 minutes a day.  The district has also purchased Chrome books for all students in grades kindergarten through third grade which will allow them to work on Lexia in class and at home.

Knee-deep in the reading initiative are the elementary principals, TOSAs, and teachers. Monte Vista principal, Lilia Gonzalez-Gomez shared, “The K-3 Initiative is huge. This is taking a lot of effort and coordination; there are a lot of people involved.” Gonzalez-Gomez sites the huge support from the district office and the consultant, Rich Rodriguez, who is leading the transition (the focus is on the kids who need the timeliest support). Principal Gonzalez-Gomez continues, “It can’t just be, ‘Oh we’ll get to them.’ We need to get to them now! If you look at all the research on kids who can’t read at grade level by third grade . . . it looks bleak. That’s where you get the buy-in.” 

Another aspect of the initiative is the addition of two credentialed reading specialist teachers added to each school site. This is key to Gonzalez-Gomez’s confidence in this program, “The support in having the extra teachers on the site is a critical piece. I’ve seen schools where students were placed into groups, but there are never enough professionals to support them. We’ve leveled students with thorough diagnostic assessments, and we are now really able to target students at their instructional level – where they need the support.” 

The reading initiative requires much more than intensive instruction. Students needed to practice rotating from classroom to classroom. Students and teachers had to practice the rotations. Anytime where you require young students to walk purposefully across the school, from classroom to classroom – you need to practice. Practice went on for over a week. Then adding the Chromebook to the mix – that of course added another dimension to the rotation practice. 


Data! Data! Data!

Progress monitoring is a large component of the program. Administrators and teachers are looking at data constantly, and adjustments are made based on individual student progress. There’s also a parent piece and many school sites are holding SIPS training. Lexia is another component of the program that they can do at home. It is a computer based program that is also adjusted to the student’s reading level. It reinforces the instruction that takes place in the groups. 

Monte Vista reading teachers, Cristina Castellon and Nelly Samaniego are really excited about the program as well. “Children are really coming along with the structure of the program. We have seen some success with their reading knowledge,” boasts Castellon. The results back up her claims. Most of the students are exceeding expectations after their first mastery test. 

Samaniego believes it is due to the purposeful leveling of the student groups, “The groups are leveled, and the lessons are very structured and aimed at their level so the students are not getting lost or bored with the instruction. The intensity of the reading instruction is able to happen because of this. Teaching reading in a whole class setting does not allow this type of intensity in instruction because of the varied levels of reading proficiency amongst the students. We tried something like this in another school district. Where students were leveled by reading level; however, there was still only one teacher in the classroom. So, although the groups were leveled, you had several groups ‘working’ without the guidance of the teacher. This set up here . . . the investment the district has placed behind this initiative . . . this is the way achievement can happen.”

The program is also beneficial to students who are already reading at grade level and beyond. Those students are also grouped and are receiving lessons of enrichment that challenge them and allow them to continue to improve and move forward. 

The program is still in its infancy stage within WCUSD, but there is already enough evidence to show that this K-3 Reading Initiative is going to be a success! 




The Academic Decathlon season is underway and the Edgewood High School team is already off to a good start. On November 12, the EHS team competed in the Round One Scrimmage at West High School in Torrance. Edgewood finished in first place and as it stands today, their overall score ranks them at second place in the nation. Benjamin Lin, Peter Tran, and Nathaniel Lyons earned top scores in California (and perhaps the nation) in their respective divisions (Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity). Benjamin Lin currently holds the top score in the nation overall. 

This is just the start of the season, and there are still a few rounds to go. However, the team is on pace for their third straight national title for “medium-sized school” (high school of 651-1300 students). Everyone is also excited that the Edgewood team is currently in a tight race with South Pasadena High School for #1 LA County School. The Edgewood team has a 600-point lead over South Pasadena, but South Pasadena has taken the title the past two years. Will this be Edgewood’s year to take the title? 

Stay tuned . . . 

Round two will take place in January; the state and national competitions will follow in March and April. 




On November 10, West Covina High School Junior ROTC hosted their 12th Annual Veteran’s Day Assembly where they honored local military veterans. This year’s theme was Operation Gratitude.  The assembly offered the opportunity for the West Covina community to give thanks to all veterans, but especially those who served in conflicts abroad.  Among the honorees were World War II veterans, Bill Berger and James Weldon; Korean War veteran, Bacon Sakatani, and Vietnam War veteran, Drexel Smith. Also in attendance were Desert Storm veteran, Michael Sherman, and Iraqi Freedom veteran, Sgt. Thomas Lewis. The assembly was also attended by other dignitaries including WCUSD school board member and army veteran, Michael Flowers; former West Covina mayor, James Toma and current police chief, Dave Faulkner. 



West Covina High School’s own Resource Officer, Eddie Flores was honored for his service during Operation Restore Hope; as well as, the school’s Junior ROTC Captain, Jesus Acuna-Perez’s, who served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In addition, the JROTC paid tribute to Prisoners of War and Missing in Action military members with the traditional table ceremony, a tributary video named, “I fought for you”, a flag folding ceremony, and the highlight of the assembly was a giant flag unfurling with a narrative performance by WWII veteran James Weldon. 


The moving assembly would not have been complete without the beautiful vocal styling of the Wescovaires, the patriotic melody of the WCHS Bulldog Band, and the realistic portrayal of deployed military members via the WCHS Drama Club.  The assembly proved to be educational and entertaining while honoring our veterans both past and present – a perfect tribute to America. 



Thanks to the generous parish members of Faith Community Church in West Covina, the season of giving was in full effect as 256 families throughout the district received food baskets on Thursday, November 17th. Thanksgiving turkey and ham baskets were distributed to the families in need.  The baskets were provided and assembled by members of the Faith Community Church, and school staff members throughout the district distributed the baskets to the families. 


Pastor Kelly DuPee, and Faith Community Church has partnered with WCUSD over the last five years to provide assistance to those who are less fortunate and are experiencing hardship during the holiday season.  Pastor DuPee proudly declared, “It is our genuine honor and pleasure to make a difference in a significant way.”  


The WCUSD family are indebted to the generosity and caring of the Faith Community Church and the many donors that contributed to this year’s distribution.  



Teachers throughout the district are excited about the return of Common Core Café. The Café is a monthly professional development offered to teachers by teachers. The Café was the brain-child of district TOSA (teacher on special assignment) Nancy Galvez-Ortega and Laurie San Miguel. “I wouldn’t say we came up with the concept on our own”, says San Miguel. “We actually spent some time visiting other districts to see what they were doing with their programs and we got the Café idea from our friend at Glendora Unified.  Ortega and San Miguel loved the idea and made it their own when they started the once-a-week meeting at the district office. Teachers loved how the meetings had a different feel than the usual district professional development that they were used to. Galvez-Ortega explained, “We wanted to create a comfortable environment for teachers to collaborate with colleagues and walk away with great resources that they can use in their classrooms the next day.” 

The idea is that the “café” is a place where teachers can come together and learn new research-based strategies and gain new teaching tools from other teachers. Merced teacher, Jill Rodriguez believes they did just that, “I really enjoyed it. It was very casual, but I learned a lot. It was positive and encouraging. There was a low key vibe where everybody shared their ideas.” If I wasn’t so busy, I would go to every single one of them. I brought home packets that I liked. There are raffles, food, and drinks. It also gives you a chance to catch up with others you haven’t seen in a while.” 


The teachers come on a voluntary basis and are treated to tasty snacks and beverages. There is even a space and activities available for their children. Each month offers a different topic or focus and teachers leave with fresh ideas and tools that they can use in the classroom the very next day. 


Last year, the topics focused on varying ways to address the California State Standards in all content areas and each session was led by San Miguel and Galvez Ortega, or another district TOSA. With San Miguel’s decision to return to the classroom for this school year, Galvez Ortega has recruited help from other district TOSAs and has continued the efforts including the new meeting space. This year, all Common Core Café events will take place in room 17 at California Elementary and each session will be offered twice to accommodate all school schedules. 


To vote in any American election, a citizen needs to be 18 years old and registered in the county for which they live. Taking part in the democratic process is every registered citizen’s right. However, that does not mean kids under 18 cannot have their say, and the students of West Covina Unified sure had a lot to say.  Thanks to the clever idea by West Covina High School principal, Dr. Stephen Glass, and the hustle of district History TOSA, Cindy Mata, the district mock elections took flight. 

Two weeks before the national election on November 8th, history teachers from all secondary schools throughout the district worked hard to engage students in active citizenship. In an effort to bring the 2016 election to life, the teachers collaborated on a digital platform to inform students about key issues regarding the presidential election. Students viewed videos produced especially for teens about issues that were relevant to the 2016 election, the videos focused on one issue, but presented both sides of the argument. History teachers were happy that the students were engaged in the process, and they boasted about the great conversations that were inspired by some of the activities shared in the classroom. All the work culminating in a digital mock election that started the Friday before the election (for early voting), and ended on November 8 at the end of the school day. 


Over 2000 students participated in the mock election from all six of the district secondary schools. When surveyed about their vote, the students identified their top three priorities to be terrorism, immigration, and education/college. Students were also asked where they learn about political issues and cable news was their number one answer with classroom teachers coming in second. 


By engaging in this mock election today, we hope to motivate our students to become the informed, responsible voters of tomorrow. 



The citizens of West Covina have spoken and the measure to improve our school facilities, Measure ES, was passed with an overwhelming 74% of the vote. Measure ES funds will be dedicated to repairing and upgrading aging buildings and to making our schools a true reflection of the 21st century. 


Now that the vote is completed, it is on to the next steps of the process.  


On December 13, 2016, the WCUSD School Board will approve a resolution to begin the process of establishing and implementing the Citizen’s Oversight Committee. The committee will be charged with auditing the voter bond money and expenditures that are suggested by the Equity Committee (a committee of 30 – 40 members to be formed at a later date). 


According to district policy, the Oversight Committee will be comprised of seven members that represent different facets of the community; it does not include district employees. Active members in a business and senior citizen organizations will be invited to serve, as well as parents and active PTA members. The Oversight Committee is in place throughout the duration of the bond.
Great things are happening at WCUSD!